The Cadiz Courts and Puerto Rico

The Cadiz Courts (or the Cortes of Cadiz) were a significant development in the Spanish Empire’s administrative and political evolution. Between 1810 and 1814, during the Peninsular War, the Spanish Empire’s first national constitution was drafted in Cadiz, Spain.

This constitution proposed a liberal political framework that had profound implications for all of Spain’s colonies, including Puerto Rico. It granted representation rights and attempted to balance the relationship between the colonies and the metropolis. The Cadiz constitution, albeit short-lived, sparked a taste for autonomy among Puerto Ricans. This initial experience with self-governance laid the groundwork for the island’s struggle for autonomy throughout the 19th century, culminating in the political dynamics that followed the U.S. invasion.

Puerto Rico Before the Invasion

Before the U.S. invasion, Puerto Rico had been under Spanish rule for over four centuries. This period had a profound influence on the island’s cultural, social, and political fabric. The end of this era was marked by the Spanish-American War, a conflict that would alter the course of Puerto Rican history.

1898 marked a pivotal year in Puerto Rican history. It was the year the United States invaded the island during the Spanish-American War, leading to a profound shift in the island’s future. From its political landscape to cultural identity, the U.S. invasion has indelibly marked Puerto Rico. In this article, we will delve into the historical events surrounding this pivotal year, the changes it brought about, and its lasting impact.

The Spanish-American War and The Invasion of Puerto Rico

The Spanish-American War of 1898 was an eight-month-long conflict that marked the end of Spain’s colonial empire and the emergence of the United States as a global power. This war had a direct impact on Puerto Rico, which was one of the territories the U.S. acquired in the conflict.

The pretext for the war was the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba, in February 1898. The explosion, which the U.S. blamed on Spain, heightened existing tensions between the two nations. Amidst American public outcry and the press’s demand for intervention, the U.S. declared war on Spain in April 1898.

In the Caribbean theatre of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. launched a two-pronged strategy, attacking both Cuba and Puerto Rico, Spain’s last two colonies in the region. General Nelson A. Miles, a veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars, led the invasion of Puerto Rico. On July 25, 1898, General Miles landed in Guánica, a small village on the southwestern coast of the island, with a force of around 16,000 soldiers.

The landing spot was strategically chosen as it was lightly defended and offered a suitable area for the American forces to establish a beachhead. As Miles and his troops moved across the island, they faced minimal resistance from the Spanish forces and local militia.

The invasion force was divided into three columns, each tasked with capturing key areas of Puerto Rico. Major General Guy V. Henry headed the central column that advanced through the mountainous interior of the island. The eastern column, under Brigadier General Theodore Schwan, moved towards the city of San Juan but was halted as the armistice was signed before they could reach it. Brigadier General George Whitefield Davis led the western column, which made its way through the coastal regions.

Despite a few minor skirmishes, the campaign was largely unopposed, and by mid-August, the whole island was under American control. Notably, the U.S. invasion was met with mixed reactions by the Puerto Rican populace. Some saw the Americans as liberators from Spanish colonial rule, while others viewed it as merely a transition from one colonial power to another.

The Spanish-American War officially ended on December 10, 1898, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Under this treaty, Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba and ceded Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico to the United States. This marked the beginning of a new era for Puerto Rico, transitioning from centuries of Spanish rule to becoming a territory of the United States, a status that would bring about significant social, economic, and political changes in the decades to come.

The Impact of the Invasion on Puerto Rican Society and Culture

The invasion led to dramatic transformations in Puerto Rican society. The island was swiftly incorporated into the U.S. economy, which led to significant developments in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. The introduction of the dollar and English as the official language imposed considerable change and pressure on local traditions and practices.

Yet, the invasion didn’t entirely eradicate the island’s distinctive cultural identity. Influential figures such as Luis Muñoz Marín, the first elected governor of Puerto Rico, and Antonio R. Barceló, the founder of the Puerto Rican Liberal Party, fought to preserve Puerto Rican culture and advocate for greater autonomy within the American system.

The Americanization of Puerto Rico

Under U.S. rule, Puerto Rico underwent significant changes as the American government implemented its policies on the island. The process of Americanization began, affecting every aspect of Puerto Rican life, from its educational system to its economy. This period saw a mix of resistance and adaptation from the Puerto Rican people as they navigated their new reality.

Puerto Rico’s Status Today: The Influence of the U.S.

The repercussions of the U.S. invasion in 1898 can still be seen today. Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory, its economic situation, and the presence of American culture are all aspects of the island’s current reality that stem from its history under U.S. rule. While debates continue about Puerto Rico’s future status, the historical influence of the U.S. remains an inextricable part of its identity.


The U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898 was a turning point that has left a lasting imprint on the island. The events of the Spanish-American War, the cultural transformations that followed, and the island’s complex relationship with the United States have all contributed to shaping Puerto Rico’s unique identity.

From the political repercussions of the Cadiz Courts in the 19th century to the Americanization efforts post-invasion, Puerto Rico’s history is a tapestry of influences and changes. Yet, throughout these transformations, the resilience and adaptability of Puerto Rico’s people have allowed the island to retain a distinct cultural identity that continues to thrive today. Understanding this complex history is crucial to appreciating the depth and richness of Puerto Rican culture and navigating the ongoing debates about its future status.